Another in a long list of New Zealand rampagers. In
May, 1992, 64-year-old wealthy farmer Brian Schlaepfer shot or stabbed
six members of his family before killing himself with a shotgun at
Pukekohe, near the northern city of Auckland. Only his granddaugher
Linda, then nine, survived the massacre.
Tehe New Zealand
May 21, 1992
Surviving members of
the Schlaepfer family were last night having to cope with the
devastating deaths of seven of their number in a shooting spree.
The deaths have left two girls,
Linda Schaepfer, aged 9, and her sister, Kerry, aged 14, orphans. Their
father, mother, brother, two uncles and grandmother were killed
yesterday morning by their grandfather, Brian Schlaepfer, aged 64, when
he went berserk with a shotgun.
Gunman had refused
The New Zealand
May 22, 1992
The police said
yesterday that Brian Schlaepfer had apparently refused treatment in the
past few weeks for the depression he was suffering.
Relatives of some of the six family
members he killed said his wife, Jocelyn Schlaepfer, had been worried
about his depression but he would not seek help, said the Auckland
police media officer, Senior Sergeant Graham Bell.
Grandfather kills family
Surviving members of the Schlaepfer family were last
night having to cope with the devastating deaths of seven of their
number in a shooting spree. The shootings have stunned the community
near Pukekohe where the Schlaepfer family has been farming for five
generations over 106 years and tributes were flowing in last night.
The deaths have left two girls, Linda Schlaepfer,
aged 9, and her sister, Kerry, aged 14, orphans. Their father, mother,
brother, two uncles and grandmother were killed yesterday morning by
their grandfather, Brian Schlaepfer, aged 64, when he went berserk with
a shotgun. He was later found dead in bush on the family farm, in
Ostrich Farm Rd, north-west of Pukekohe. He had shot himself.
The other dead were: Jocelyn Marie Schlaepfer, aged
55; Darrell Bryan Schlaepfer, 31; Peter Wayne Schlaepfer, 39; Karl
Percival Schlaepfer, 33; Hazel Jean Schlaepfer, 42; and Aaron Schlaepfer,
Aaron’s sister, Linda, escaped her grandfather’s fire
by hiding. Kerry was not on the property, having stayed overnight at the
home of a friend in Pukekohe. Another pair of sisters, the two adult
daughters of Brian and Jocelyn Schlaepfer, have lost both parents and
their three brothers. They are Mrs. Gail Johnson, aged 37, believed to
be of Papakura, and Mrs. Delwyn Postles, 34, of Paerath, who was
yesterday holidaying in Whitianga when she heard of the tragedy.
Nine family members lived at the Ostrich Farm Rd
property, in three houses. Three others who lived on the property,
Darrell’s de facto wife and her two children, were not there during the
A farmhand was whisked to safety after stumbling on
the carnage soon after arriving to start work. The early morning
shootings sparked a mass police alert. Sixty officers, many of them
armed, rushed to the Paerata farm from different parts of Auckland. Road
cordons, using combined police and traffic forces, kept a horde of
reports, locals and several weeping relatives of the victims at bay
throughout the seven-hour drama.
Ambulances waiting to enter the cordons to help the
injured had to wait until the police were satisfied their route was
clear. The police helicopter kept a watch from above, with the Westpac
rescue helicopter providing back-up several times when the Eagle needed
The police were first alerted to the emergency by a
telephone call shortly after 7.30 am, believed to be from Mrs Hazel
Schlaepfer before she died. As soon as about 20 members of the armed
offenders squad arrived about 8 am they began closing in on the Ostrich
Farm Rd property.
They were unsure where the gunman, Brian Schlaepfer,
was and whether he was still armed as they set out to try to rescue
Linda and any other surviving members of her family. Inspector Ash
Edwards, head of the armed offenders squad, said they found the first
two bodies, Brian’s wife, Jocelyn, and their youngest son, Karl, dead
from gunshot wounds in the house at the front of the property.
Two men, Mr Schlaepfer’s other sons, Peter and
Darrell, lay dead outside an implements shed further down the driveway.
A trail of blood leading into the rear house suggested Mrs Hazel
Schlaepfer had been shot but had managed to make it inside to a
telephone to call for help before the receiver was dropped.
Off the hook
Linda maintained telephone contact with the police on
another telephone in a barricaded upstairs room to which she had fled
from her grandfather. At 11 am members of the armed offenders squad, not
knowing if the gunman was still around, burst into the farmhouse and
rescued Linda. When they came back downstairs they found her brother
Aaron shot dead in his bedroom and her mother, Hazel Schlaepfer, slumped
on the floor in the kitchen.
A blood-splattered phone receiver was dangling off
the hook nearby.
There was no sign of the gunman, however. The squad
then split in two, with one group searching the building and the other
nearby areas of bush. Almost seven hours after the drama began the
police found Mr Schlaepfer’s body in the bush behind the last house. He
was dead, lying with a shotgun across his chest. Police believe he died
a short time after shooting six members of his family.
Two other weapons were found during the police search
of the property. A shotgun was recovered in one house, and a .22 rifle
had been discarded in the open.
"It was fairly traumatic." Said Inspector Edwards, to
come across that scene but still maintain a "high risk profile" in case
the offender was hiding somewhere. "Our adrenaline was running. We have
no idea of the location of an armed offender and we’re finding dead
persons in put tracks. It’s the biggest mass death that we have dealt
with since my time in the squad."
Inspector Edwards praised the cool headed nature of
young Linda, saying that when she was taken to a safe assembly point she
seemed surprisingly composed. "She did more than we would want anybody
to do … and performed a remarkable feat," he said of the standard three
pupil from Paerata School.
Petra Cleven, who lives opposite the Schlaepfer’s was
hanging out her washing when she heard three shots fired in quick
succession. They were followed by terrified screams and crying. Mrs
Cleven said she went around the front of her house to investigate and
heard another two shots, followed again by "a terrible screaming and
crying and a sort of groan." The noises were coming from the Schlaepfer’s
property but she could not see any movement.
The principal at Paerata Primary School, Mr John
McGiven, said his students would have a hard time understanding the
tragedy. Aaron, whom he had taught last term in form one, had been
friendly and popular with his classmates. The youngster had a good
imagination and an "interesting sense of humour," said Mr McGiven. Linda
was a friendly, thoughtful girl, he said, quite mature in her ways.
He was not surprised to learn she had been so
courageous and levelheaded throughout the ordeal.
Mr McGiven referred to Hazel Schlaepfer, the children’s
mother as "the salt of the earth type. The children were always
beautifully dressed. The family was quite involved in school activities
and very generous in giving vegetables for galas and things."
"I think he's going to shoot me"
"My granddad has shot my brother … and I think he’s
going to shoot me."
The words were spoken calmly by a frightened 9-year-old
girl whose mother and 11-year-old brother lay dead in their home on a
farm near Paerata, South Auckland, early yesterday. It was 7.47 am and
Linda Schlaepfer had just picked up the telephone left dangling by her
mother, Hazel, minutes earlier. Her mother’s hideously disfigured body
was only metres away on the kitchen floor of the four-bedroom house.
On the other end of the line was Constable Jeff Stuck,
a control room operator at the Auckland Central police station. Seven
minutes earlier Constable Stuck had received a 111 call from a
hysterical Hazel Schlaepfer, but their conversation had ended abruptly
when the telephone was dropped. In the background he could hear raised
voices, one of them a man’s and then a shot. Five minutes passed in
silence before Linda came on the line.
"She was very clinical in the things that she
described to me," said Constable Stuck.
The little girl told the constable that she was in
bed when she heard a shot fired inside the house. She ran to hide, first
in her bedroom closet, then under her bed.
"She told me she heard her grandfather come into the
room and call her name – her mother was still screaming in the
background at that stage," said Constable Stuck. He said Linda’s
grandfather, Brian Schlaepfer, walked out of the bedroom and went into
the kitchen and dining room area at the rear of the house.
"She heard him having a heated exchange with her
mother. She heard another shot then and heard the back door close and
the offender outside calling her name."
Linda went into her 11-year-old brother Aaron’s
bedroom across the hall and saw him lying on his back on the floor
clutching at a gunshot wound in his chest. She was later to tell
Constable Stuck that she had heard Aaron begging her grandfather not to
kill him. She then went into the dining room and picked up the phone to
begin a conversation with the constable, which would last nearly three
At that stage neither knew that Linda’s mother, her
father, Peter, her uncles Darrell and Karl, and her grandmother Jocelyn
had been killed by her grandfather. Constable Stuck, who has a 17-month-old
daughter of his own, said he was surprised at the calmness displayed by
his young informant.
"I was amazed at just how brave and intelligent the
girl was. She became very scared when she realised that the offender was
possibly still outside and she knew that he was hunting her – she was
quite distressed about that, understandably," said the 30-year-old
policeman. "I couldn’t do much to calm her down except to suggest that
she go and hide straight away."
Linda locked the two doors at the rear of the house
and made her way to an upstairs room where she barricaded herself in
with tables and chairs. She resumed the conversation with Constable
Stuck using an upstairs telephone.
"She sort of hit a wall when she realised just what
had happened and was very, very upset when she realised she could
possibly lose her whole family," said the constable. "At that stage I
had been talking to her for three-quarters of an hour. She was
controlled pretty much all the way through."
Constable Stuck said he became greatly alarmed when
Linda told him she could hear noises at the door.
"I knew that armed offenders squad was in the
immediate vicinity as were other armed police and I assumed at that
stage that they had not entered the house. I thought yes, that may have
been the offender come back to try and locate her. It transpired that it
may have been cats – she was very concerned about three of her pet cats
that hadn’t had breakfast and I had to assure her that the police would
be feeding the cats."
Constable Stuck talked to Linda about her school
interests – her ballet and jazz dancing, and about how her family had
been to the movies the day before. "We talked about the movies quite a
bit," he said.
Every 15 minutes or so he would have to cut in to try
obtain more details of the tragedy for police outside the house and
converging on the area.
"She was able to give us good information about the
house – unfortunately she didn’t know where the offender had gone, which
gave her great concern and me in the control room great concern."
During her ordeal, Linda decided on a password she
would use when the armed offenders squad reached her. The word was "rabbit."
Constable Stuck said he could hear the squad members in the background
when Linda was rescued. Linda said to him: "They’re knocking on the door
now, are you sure it is the police?"
"I had a line to the armed offenders squad in the
house and I confirmed that it was the police"
After the house was cleared, Constable Stuck found
himself emotionally exhausted. He said being a father made it easier to
establish a rapport with the terrified girl.
"The time went fairly quickly when I look back but I
can assure you that at the time when she was in the upstairs room and we
could both hear noises downstairs and I knew the armed offenders squad
wasn’t ready I assumed the worst. She was great, really brave – she was
concerned that the rest of the family were being hunted – she thought
that the offender was going to hunt further members of the family and
that gave her a lot of concern."
Brian Schlaepfer was a highly respect individual in
the farming community of Paerata, New Zealand. He owned over one hundred
acres of land, on which he had built houses for most of his family. He
had founded the local gliding club, donated a piece of land for the
scouts to camp on, and at one stage had been a scoutmaster. But all this
was soon to count for nothing.
His daughter-in-law, Hazel, had been plotting to have
the old man removed as boss of the family farm, and have him replaced by
herself. She had already convinced his sons that he was too old to run
the place. Poor old Brian knew exactly what was going on, and coupled
with a troublesome heart, he decided it was time to sort the scheming
bitch and his traitorous family out.
Around Dawn on May 19, 1992, he finally flipped. He
awoke, went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. He then went back into
the bedroom and hacked his wife to death. He then grabbed his gun and
went after one of his sons, Karl, 33. He walked into Karl's bedroom and
before Karl knew what was going on he had a big fucking hole in his head.
He then went after grandson Aaron, 11, who he killed with a single blast.
Then he spotted his Aaron's little sister Linda, 9 years old. Luckily
for Linda her scheming bitch mother got in the way of the bullet,
falling dead, and allowing young Linda to escape.
Schlaepfer then left the house in search of his sons,
who were working on the farm. He found them, and they found death not
long afterwards, both from gunshot wounds. Around this time little Linda
was on the phone to the police.
She was describing the mornings excitement to local
cop Jeff Stuck.
"My granddad's shot my brother."
"Shot your brother?"
"Yes, and he's coming to shoot me."
"He's going to shoot you now?"
"Yes, he's looking for me."
"Is your mum there; can your mum come to the
"No... Mummy's dead. My brothers been shot and
he's groaning and twitching."
Eventually Linda gave police directions to the farm. A
special squad were sent out to the farm to find Schlaepfer, who had no
more relatives to kill, except Linda. At around 3.00pm they found him.
He was lying dead from a gunshot wound to the head in an open field.
Amazingly, Brian Schlaepfer was buried next to the six
family members he had killed. And Linda was at the mass funeral for all
seven. It was reported in a local paper at the time that she didn't say
a word, or even cry.
The Wacky World of Murder
The Schlaepfer Family
On May 20th
1992 in Paerata, a family was massacred by one of it's own. Brian
Schlaepfer, aged 64, turned on his family following an argument with his
wife. Only his nine-year-old granddaughter, Linda, survived.
According to a
police reconstruction this is what happened:
was suffering from depression and an argument with his wife Jocelyn,
aged 55, early that morning, ended in him stabbing her in the heart in
their bedroom. Their 33 year-old son, Karl, got up to investigate and
was shot in the neck while standing at his bedroom door. Brian
Schalepfer then went out to the tool shed where he shot his 31 year-old
son, Darrell, in the jaw and throat.
farmhouse on the property, Hazel Schlaepfer heard the shots and got up
to investigate. As she approached her in-laws' home, Brian shot her in
the arm and chest. She managed to get back to her farmhouse and dial
111, but was followed by Brian who went into her son's (his grandson's)
room. He stabbed 11-year-old Aaron as he lay in bed, causing fatal
wounds to his abdomen and chest. He then went into his granddaughter
Linda's room but was unable to find her, so went back to the kitchen
where Hazel was on the phone to Constable Stuck pleading for help. He
finished her off with a shot to her face and another to the abdomen.
He returned to
the implement shed where his youngest son lay dead and waited for his
eldest son, Peter, aged 39, to return from working on the farm where he
shot and stabbed him to death. After wandering into bush, Brian
Schlaepfer took his own life with a single shot to the head.
Linda Schlaepfer was the only one in the family left alive. She had
hidden in her wardrobe but heard her grandfather shoot her mother and
stab her brother. This brave little girl took over the 111 phone call to
police and talked to them about what had happened for three hours until
the scene was secured and police entered the residence.
mention of Constable Stuck needs to be made, as he was the officer who
answered Hazel's desperate call, listened helplessly as Hazel was
killed, and had to keep calm and talk Linda through the murderous chaos
that surrounded her.
Why did this
tragedy occur? No one would ever know for sure, but Brian Schlaepfer's
mental state was obviously more serious then anyone had thought. It
appears his slim hold on sanity was lost when he argued with his wife.